A MelanieM Review: Rhino Ash (Saturday Barbies #2) by Lindsey Black

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Ashley Jameson always tries to do the right thing, but that’s hard when your nephew keeps eating crayons, your niece is dressed as a pudding and your obnoxious older brothers crash the church’s Sunday brunch with the guy you’ve been crushing on for five years. Going to work to fight fires is a welcome relief from family obligations, until the Riot Squad arrives to investigate and Ashley once again finds himself dealing with his siblings. Oh … and Finn Hale.

But Finn’s dark past continues to haunt him. As work gets increasingly busy with a string of arson attacks on illegal immigrants, Finn steps in to be the shoulder Ashley needs to lean on, but Ashley struggles to do the same for the man he loves. Juggling family and work can be difficult, but Ashley soon discovers that the real challenge is when it’s not a struggle at all … because you’ll do anything for the ones you love.

I fell in love with Lindsey Black’s writing through her debut novel Fishy Riot (Saturday Barbies, #1).  That story introduced us to the crazy Jameson clan (police officers, doctors, EMT, firefighters) and assorted extended family members, including partners, children (vastly entertaining little ‘monsters’) and more.  It was an enthusiastic, marvelously engaging romp!  I adored the clan, the adventure, the mystery and humor and wanted more immediately.  But had to wait until now to see what and who in the Jameson family was going to get their story told next.  Lucky us!  It’s Ashley Jameson, the odd child out in names (Tay, Hay, Shay, etc) and youngest of the large pack who finds his HEA here in Finn Hale, his twin brothers partner in the Riot Squad.

One of the things I love about this  author is her ability to bring me to laughter one second and tears the next.  That’s totally in keeping with the characters here and the situations they find themselves in within this story and in Finn Hale’s case, deep within his backhistory.  The themes of family,  pain and recovery, even the self doubt that Ash carries within him about how his own family sees him.  These are layered, multidimensional characters who easily get to you because they feel so real, so human.  I found myself wanting to slide into their Saturday family barbeques myself if only to be a part of the craziness.

It’s not just the family appeal that comes across but the grit and pain of the business of firefighting or what they come across during this investigation.  It’s heartbreaking and the descriptions here telegraph the exhaustion, the heat, the intensity the firefighters feel as they enter the buildings, flames all around, floors collapsing, to save the people within…and sometimes don’t.

Rhino Ash (Saturday Barbies #2) by Lindsey Black proves that the first book and this author was indeed a glorious find and now a series to hang onto.  So is this amazing author.  I need more, so much more from her.

If you haven’t read Fishy Riot, grab that one up first and meet the Jameson family and then come here to Rhino Ash for the next Saturday Barbie!  I’ll be going back to reread them both together as I can’t get my fill I recommend them that much!

Cover art by Angsty G is perfect in continuing to brand the series while containing elements for the story. Love it.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, first edition, 276 pages
Published October 27th 2017 by Netherwood Press
ASINB076QYSS1N
Edition LanguageEnglish
Series Saturday Barbies:

Fishy Riot (Saturday Barbies, #1)

Matthew J. Metzger on Side Characters and his latest novel Walking on Water (guest post, excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Walking on Water

Author: Matthew J. Metzger

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: November 13, 2017

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 88300

Genre: Fantasy, fantasy, mermaids, trans, magic, fairy tales, bisexual

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Matthew J. Metzger on Side Characters

My favourite characters are always my side characters.

I know that sounds a little crazy for an author, and I swear I love my main characters as much as anyone else, but—there’s just something special about side characters!

In my latest novel, there’s a whole cast of side characters built out of their own names. The novel is set in a fictional German kingdom. I was learning a bit of German from my helpers at the time, and loved the way a German translation changed the way a word looked and felt. So Doctor became Doktor, but would have been a different word entirely if someone said, “Call a doctor!” Therefore, our hero—who speaks no German at all—takes that to be his actual name. This also happens with a captain and a small child, whose ‘name’ actually means ‘my son.’

I love the visual look of a word, so the switch from Doctor to Doktor made the character for me. His German ‘name’ looks spikier and harsher, so the character became that way as well. By contrast, the long dip of the J in Janez (the prince) made him softer than the original draft, more refined and gentle than I’d originally pictured.

With main characters there’s only so much their name can influence them—they have to be the way they are for the plot, after all—but with side characters, I find there’s more room to mould them into exactly what I see in the name. So Doctor might have been a kindly sort of person—but Doktor is acerbic, harsh, begrudgingly caring, and uses threats and trickery to work his art. The one time he is openly warm in the entire novel is after the queen jabs her brother-in-law in his wounded thigh with a pin to stop him trying to get up before he’s ready. Doktor approves heartily of such methods, and a flash of warmth and even charm is glimpsed. (Then, obviously, it vanishes once more.)

Something similar happened with Captain Kühe. I drew the character out first—this pompous, blithering idiot of a man who’s far too self-important to fit inside his uniform properly—and went straight for an animal I don’t like to name him. Cows. I hate cows. They’re only good for beefburgers, in my opinion. So the name came so beautifully well-packaged: clumsy to pronounce in my accent, difficult to write without a German keyboard thanks to the umlaut, and too short to support its long letters. Gorgeous.

By the time I’d finished the novel, I had a cast of side characters either born from their names, or their names born from them, in a far more raw way than I can do with main characters, who I not only have to like but I have to write their name over and over and over, so it has to be a good one, and a fitting one. That’s much harder.

But my side characters? That’s where the fun really lies.

Synopsis

When a cloud falls to earth, Calla sets out to find what lies beyond the sky. Father says there’s nothing, but Calla knows better. Something killed that cloud; someone brought it down.

Raised on legends of fabled skymen, Calla never expected them to be real, much less save one from drowning—and lose her heart to him. Who are the men who walk on water? And how can such strange creatures be so beautiful?

Infatuated and intrigued, Calla rises out of her world in pursuit of a skyman who doesn’t even speak her language. Above the waves lies more than princes and politics. Above the sky awaits the discovery of who Calla was always meant to be. But what if it also means never going home again?

Excerpt

Walking on Water
Matthew J. Metzger © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One

When the sand settled, only silence remained.

The explosion had gone on for what felt like forever—a great boom that shuddered through the water, a shadow that had borne down on the nest like the end of the world had come, and then nothing but panicked escape from the crushing water, the darkness, and the suffocating whirlwind of sand and stones. In the terror, it had seemed like it would never end.

But it did end, eventually. When it did, Calla lay hidden in the gardens, deafened and dazed. She was shivering, though it wasn’t cold. An attack. They had been attacked. By what? Orcas and rival clans could hardly end the world. And what would wish to attack them so?

She took a breath. And another. Her attempts to calm herself felt pathetic and weak, like the desperate attempts of a mewling child. Where was Father? Her sisters? Where even the crabs that chattered and scuttled amongst the bushes? She was alone in the silent gardens, and Calla had never been alone before.

Slowly, she reached out. Slipped through the towering trunks, to the very edge of the gardens, to where the noise had come from. Drew aside a fern and—

Ducked down, clapping a hand over her mouth to prevent the gasp.

A giant beast lay in the courtyard.

Still. Oh, great seas, be still. She held her breath and closed her eyes. It had to be an orca, a beast so huge, and it would see her if she moved.

Yet even in her fear, Calla knew that wasn’t quite right.

Orcas didn’t come this far south—did they? Father had said they would be undisturbed here. Father had said.

She peeked again. Daring. The beast didn’t move.

Nor was it an orca. It was impossible, too huge even for that. Oh, she’d not seen an orca since she’d been a merling, but they’d never been that big. It had squashed the courtyard flat under its great belly, its tail and head—though she couldn’t tell one from the other—spilling out over the rocks and nests that had been homes, once. It would have crushed their occupants, surely. What beast killed by crushing?

Hesitantly, she drifted out of the garden. Her tail brushed the ferns, and she wrapped her fins around them, childishly seeking comfort.

The beast didn’t move.

In fact, it didn’t breathe. Its enormous ribcage, dark and broken, was punctured by a great hole, a huge gaping blackness longer than Calla’s entire body, and wider by far.

It had been slain.

Bloodless. It was quite dead. How could it be dead, how could its heart have been torn out so, without spilling blood into the water? Where was the column of red that marked its descent? Where was—

Oh.

“A cloud!”

It was no beast.

Calla fled the safety of the gardens in a flurry of excitement. No, that great oval shape was familiar. How many had scudded gently across the sky in her lifetime? How many times had she watched their passage from her window? Beautiful, dark, silent wonders. Oh, a cloud!

She rushed closer to look. How could a cloud have fallen to earth? Father had said they were simply things that happened in the sky, and no concern of theirs. But this one had fallen, lay here and near and so very touchable—and now Calla wanted to touch the sky.

It was—

She held her breath—and touched it.

Oh.

Rough. Sharp. Its body was dark against her pale hand. And hard, so very hard. She had imagined clouds to be soft and fluid, to walk on water as they did, but it wasn’t. Huge and heavy, it was a miracle that it walked at all.

And a home: tiny molluscs clung to it. As she walked her webbed fingers up the roughness and came over the crest of its enormous belly, she mourned its death. This must have killed it. Such a deep, round belly—clouds were obviously like rocks and stone, but this one had been cut in half. Exposed to the sea was a sheer, flat expanse of paleness, with great cracks in the surface. A column stuck out from the middle, and two smaller ones at head and tail. It had been impaled by something, the poor thing.

“Calla!”

The hiss reached her from far away, but Calla ignored it. The poor cloud was dead. It had been slain, and whatever had dragged it from the sky must have been immense, to wield spears like those jutting from its body. And it wasn’t here.

Clouds were harmless. Dead clouds, even more so.

“Calla, what are you doing?”

“Meri, come and see!” she called back to her sister and ducked to swim along its flattened insides. Great ropes of seaweed, twisted into impossible coils, trailed from its bones. Vast stains, dark and pink, smeared its ragged edges. When Calla peered up into the sky, at the stream of bubbles still softly rising from its innards, she could see the gentle descent of debris. It had been torn apart.

Orcas? But an orca pack would have followed it down. Sharks? Calla had never seen a shark, but Father had, long ago when he was a merling, and he’d said they were great and terrible hunters. Were sharks big enough to do it?

“Calla!”

That was not Meri’s voice. Deep and commanding, it vibrated through the water like a blow. Calla found herself swimming up the side to answer automatically, and came clear of the cloud’s gut barely in time to prevent the second shout.

Father did not like to call a second time.

“Here. Now.”

She went. At once. The immense joy at her discovery was diminished in a moment by his stern face and sterner voice, and Calla loathed it. She felt like a merling under Father’s frown and struggled to keep her face blank instead of echoing his displeased expression.

“You should stay away from such things. The guards will deal with it.”

“But Father—”

He gave her a look. She ducked her chin and drifted across to join her sisters at the window. The window. Pah. What good was the window, was seeing, when she had touched it?

“What is it?” Balta whispered, twirling her hair around her fingers.

“A cloud,” Calla said in her most impressive voice and then pushed between Meri and Balta to peer out. The guard were swarming over the cloud’s belly, poking more holes in the poor thing’s body. “Something killed it.”

Meri snorted. “Talk sense, Calla.”

“Something did!”

“You sound like a seal, grunting nonsense.”

“I do not!”

“Girls!”

They subsided under Father’s booming reprimand—although Calla snuck in a quick pinch before stopping—and returned to watching.

“Clouds don’t fall out of the sky,” Meri whispered. “It must be a shark. There’s nothing so big as a shark. Father said so.”

“Father also said sharks don’t come this far north,” Balta chirped uncertainly, still twirling her hair.

“That’s a cloud,” Calla said and peered upwards to the sky, her eyes following the great trail of bubbles, “and I bet something even bigger killed it.”

Purchase

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Meet the Author

Matthew J. Metzger is an ace, trans author posing as a functional human being in the wilds of Yorkshire, England. Although mainly a writer of contemporary, working-class romance, he also strays into fantasy when the mood strikes. Whatever the genre, the focus is inevitably on queer characters and their relationships, be they familial, platonic, sexual, or romantic.

When not crunching numbers at his day job, or writing books by night, Matthew can be found tweeting from the gym, being used as a pillow by his cat, or trying to keep his website in some semblance of order.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

 

Tour Schedule

11/13 Love Bytes

11/13 The Blogger Girls

11/13 Erotica For All

11/13 Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

11/14 Happily Ever Chapter

11/14 MM Good Book Reviews

11/14 Bayou Book Junkie

11/15 Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews

11/15 A Book Lover’s Dream Book Blog

11/16 Stories That Make You Smile

11/16 Divine Magazine

11/17 Shari Sakurai

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Love SyFy? Here’s a Must Read New Novel! The Stark Divide (Liminal Sky #1) by J. Scott Coatsworth (author interview and excerpt)

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The Stark Divide (Liminal Sky #1) by J. Scott Coatsworth

DSP Publications
Cover Artist: Aaron Anderson

Buy Links:

DSP Publications (paperback)DSP Publications (eBook) | AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo iBooksGoodreads | 

QueeRomance Ink

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have J. Scott Coatsworth here today on his tour for his new release, The Stark Divide.   Welcome, Scott and thanks for agreeing to answer our author questions!

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Interview with J. Scott Coatsworth

  • How much of yourself goes into a character?

Hmmm, that’s hard to say – mostly my characters are amalgams of other people I know. But of course, my experiences filter into just about any character I write. Still, I’d say the closest to me is probably Alex in my short story “Flames”, and Alex’s mother is totally my mom. 😛

  • Does research play a role into choosing which genre you write?  Do you enjoy research or prefer making up your worlds and cultures?

Not exactly? Although it’s always easier to write a story set in a fantasy or sci fi setting because you get to make up most of the details. I have written some stories set in real places that did require a fair amount of research – the epitome of this being “Through the Veil”, a post climate change tale set in a half-drowned San Francisco. We drove down there to survey the drowned parts and figure out what would be above water. It was a lot of fun. 😛

  • Has your choice of childhood or teenage reading genres carried into your own choices for writing?

Yes… I’ve had a soft spot for sci fi and fantasy since I started reading adult novels in third grade. I devoured the Lord of the Rings and lived in Pern for a couple months. I spun around the sun inside Rama, and gloried at Psychohistory’s potential. It definitely informed my writing desires as I grew up. I wanted to make those worlds that I used to live in as a kid.

  • Who do you think is your major influence as a writer?  Now and growing up?

Hmmm… growing up, it was probably Anne McCaffrey and J.R.R. Tolkien. Both crafted amazingly detailed worlds full of danger and great beauty. I remember asking for “Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern” for Christmas in 1984, and being so thrilled when my Dad (who had no idea what it was) bought it for me.

More recently? Peter F. Hamilton has inspired me with his trains that cross between worlds and his worlds that are living things. And Sheri Tepper, who just recently passed away, wrote stories that left me thinking afterwards for days and weeks.

I’m also finding inspiration lately from Black Mirror, a fantastic sci fi show out of the UK that’s a latter-day Twilight Zone. The way this show projects the now into the future has to be seen to be believed.

  • How do you choose your covers?  (curious on my part)

Um, they choose me? LOL… Seriously, the publishers put them together, but I usually get input. In the case of The Stark Divide, DSPP presented me with two amazing covers by Aaron Anderson, but neither quite captured the feel of Forever, the world in the story. So I asked him to go back to the drawing board, and he came up with the amazing cover (minus a few tweaks) that went on the final book. I love working with artists and seeing how they interpret my writer vision.

  • Do you have a favorite among your own stories?  And why?

“Flames.” It’s set in Tucson (my home town). It includes Italian, my second language. The mother is basically my mom. And it’s about marriage equality. It’s one of my most romantic tales.

  • What’s next for you as an author?

I’m currently writing the sequel to “The Stark Divide.” If all goes as planned, “The Rising Tide” will come out in October of 2018. I also recently finished “Lander,” the sequel to Skythane. And I plan to release “The River City Chronicles” in print and ebook form early next year.

Blurb

Some stories are epic.

The Earth is in a state of collapse, with wars breaking out over resources and an environment pushed to the edge by human greed.

Three living generation ships have been built with a combination of genetic mastery, artificial intelligence, technology, and raw materials harvested from the asteroid belt. This is the story of one of them—43 Ariadne, or Forever, as her inhabitants call her—a living world that carries the remaining hopes of humanity, and the three generations of scientists, engineers, and explorers working to colonize her.

From her humble beginnings as a seedling saved from disaster to the start of her journey across the void of space toward a new home for the human race, The Stark Divide tells the tales of the world, the people who made her, and the few who will become something altogether beyond human.


Humankind has just taken its first step toward the stars.

Book One of Liminal Sky

Excerpt

DRESSLER, SCHEMATIC,” Colin McAvery, ship’s captain and a third of the crew, called out to the ship-mind.

A three-dimensional image of the ship appeared above the smooth console. Her five living arms, reaching out from her central core, were lit with a golden glow, and the mechanical bits of instrumentation shone in red. In real life, she was almost two hundred meters from tip to tip.

Between those arms stretched her solar wings, a ghostly green film like the sails of the Flying Dutchman.

“You’re a pretty thing,” he said softly. He loved these ships, their delicate beauty as they floated through the starry void.

“Thank you, Captain.” The ship-mind sounded happy with the compliment—his imagination running wild. Minds didn’t have real emotions, though they sometimes approximated them.

He cross-checked the heading to be sure they remained on course to deliver their payload, the man-sized seed that was being dragged on a tether behind the ship. Humanity’s ticket to the stars at a time when life on Earth was getting rapidly worse.

All of space was spread out before him, seen through the clear expanse of plasform set into the ship’s living walls. His own face, trimmed blond hair, and deep brown eyes, stared back at him, superimposed over the vivid starscape.

At thirty, Colin was in the prime of his career. He was a starship captain, and yet sometimes he felt like little more than a bus driver. After this run… well, he’d have to see what other opportunities might be awaiting him. Maybe the doc was right, and this was the start of a whole new chapter for mankind. They might need a guy like him.

The walls of the bridge emitted a faint but healthy golden glow, providing light for his work at the curved mechanical console that filled half the room. He traced out the T-Line to their destination. “Dressler, we’re looking a little wobbly.” Colin frowned. Some irregularity in the course was common—the ship was constantly adjusting its trajectory—but she usually corrected it before he noticed.

“Affirmative, Captain.” The ship-mind’s miniature chosen likeness appeared above the touch board. She was all professional today, dressed in a standard AmSplor uniform, dark hair pulled back in a bun, and about a third life-sized.

The image was nothing more than a projection of the ship-mind, a fairy tale, but Colin appreciated the effort she took to humanize her appearance. Artificial mind or not, he always treated minds with respect.

“There’s a blockage in arm four. I’ve sent out a scout to correct it.”

The Dressler was well into slowdown now, her pre-arrival phase as she bled off her speed, and they expected to reach 43 Ariadne in another fifteen hours.

Pity no one had yet cracked the whole hyperspace thing. Colin chuckled. Asimov would be disappointed. “Dressler, show me Earth, please.”

A small blue dot appeared in the middle of his screen.

Dressler, three dimensions, a bit larger, please.” The beautiful blue-green world spun before him in all its glory.

Appearances could be deceiving. Even with scrubbers working tirelessly night and day to clean the excess carbon dioxide from the air, the home world was still running dangerously warm.

He watched the image in front of him as the East Coast of the North American Union spun slowly into view. Florida was a sliver of its former self, and where New York City’s lights had once shone, there was now only blue. If it had been night, Fargo, the capital of the Northern States, would have outshone most of the other cities below. The floods that had wiped out many of the world’s coastal cities had also knocked down Earth’s population, which was only now reaching the levels it had seen in the early twenty-first century.

All those new souls had been born into a warm, arid world.

We did it to ourselves. Colin, who had known nothing besides the hot planet he called home, wondered what it had been like those many years before the Heat.

About the Author

Scott spends his time between the here and now and the what could be. Enticed into fantasy and sci fi by his mom at the tender age of nine, he devoured her Science Fiction Book Club library. But as he grew up, he wondered where all the people like him were in the books he was reading.

He decided that it was time to create the kinds of stories he couldn’t find at his local bookstore. If there weren’t gay characters in his favorite genres, he would remake them to his own ends.

His friends say Scott’s mind works a little differently – he sees relationships between things that others miss, and gets more done in a day than most folks manage in a week. He loves to transform traditional sci fi, fantasy, and contemporary worlds into something unexpected.

Starting in 2014, Scott has published more than 15 works, including two novels and a number of novellas and short stories.

He runs both Queer Sci Fi and QueeRomance Ink with his husband Mark, sites that bring queer people together to promote and celebrate fiction that reflects their own lives.

Author Links:

Release Day Blitz for Leaning into Touch (Leaning Into Stories #4) by Lane Hayes (Excerpt and Giveaway)

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Title:  Leaning Into Touch

Series: Leaning Into Stories, #4

Author: Lane Hayes

Publisher:  Lane Hayes

Release Date: October 5

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 80k words

Genre: Romance, Bisexual, Humor, Second Chance, Friends to Lovers, San Francisco, Office

Amazon

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Synopsis

Josh Sheehan is unlucky in love and now… newly unemployed. He’s not sure what to do next, but he’s sure he should give up on romance. Especially after last time. His friends warned him that falling for the hunky Irishman was a bad idea. Josh can’t help feeling torn even though he knows it’s best to move on. But when an unexpected dose of family drama blindsides him, Josh finds himself leaning on the one man he’s supposed to forget.

Finn Gallagher is driven by success. He makes no secret that building a name for his tech company is his number one goal. Finn left home a decade ago with a ton of regret, a heavy heart, and a vow to never repeat the same mistake twice. However, there is something undeniably appealing about the self-deprecating man with the silly sense of humor that makes it difficult for Finn to remember why falling for Josh is a bad idea. It soon becomes clear they’re both in deeper than they intended. There is no way to remain untouched. And there is so much to gain, if they’re brave enough to lean in.

Excerpt

Finn smiled and fell into step beside me. It seemed quieter on the street than it was earlier; there wasn’t as much foot traffic. Typical for midweek, I supposed. I breathed in the refreshing night air, loving the faint smell of the ocean. I shivered and crossed my arms. So much for enjoying a leisurely stroll. It was cold as fuck out here. I picked up my pace, but Finn pulled at my elbow to stop me.

“Are you daft? Where’s your coat?”

“I f-forgot it at the last bar. It’s okay. I’m cl-close.” I visibly shook when the wind whipped up the sidewalk, sending a scrap of newspaper flying by us like a paper airplane.

“Let’s go back and get it.”

“No, my friend will give it to me later. Or her friend will. I’m almost h-home so—what are you doing?”

“Put this on, then.”

Finn shrugged his suit coat off and set it over my shoulders like a cape or a cloak. He was two inches taller than me and far more muscular. It was like being wrapped in his warm, cologne-scented embrace. The gesture was so chivalrous, it left me speechless for a moment. I knew he was just being kind, but I couldn’t contain my smile.

“Thank you,” I said. “Are you sure you won’t be too cold?”

“Where I’m from, this is a summer breeze. You need it more than I do. Now tell me about your mates. I’m relieved to know you weren’t out drowning your sorrows on your own tonight.”

I snickered at his paternal tone. “I’m not above it, that’s for sure, but no…I was with my work crew for one last happy hour. Marley insisted. She was the redhead with the awesome curls I was with this morning at the museum.”

“I remember. She’s the one holding your jacket for ransom, eh?”

“Yeah. She’s on a mission to find the perfect man for me,” I huffed, making sure he saw my eye roll before we turned the corner to my street.

“Has she ruled out women? You’re bi, aren’t you?”

“Honestly, I don’t know what I am anymore. I had girlfriends in high school and even in college but after the first time I was with a man, I haven’t been interested in anything but dick.”

Finn laughed. “Good to know.”

“What about you?” I asked, leading him down a brick path and up a short flight of stairs.

I leaned against the bright red door as I fumbled for the house key in my front pocket. In my head, I was planning a cinematic-worthy good-bye. Something lighthearted but sincere before we parted for the last time. It would have been a helluva lot easier to concentrate if he wasn’t standing so close and looking at me like I was the last brownie on the buffet table. I cocked my head and waited for him to break the spell.

“I like it too,” he said in a husky voice I hadn’t heard in far too long.

I gulped and licked my bottom lip as he moved in, bending slightly to brush his nose against mine. He surrounded me in every possible way. The heat of his body and the warmth of his coat draped me in a seductive cocoon. I felt woozy with a rush of desire so intense, I would’ve swayed on my feet if he hadn’t been standing so close. I set my right hand on his hip to steady myself and leaned in…just as he pushed away.

Finn let out a ragged breath and swiped his hand over his stubbled chin. “Fuck. I forgot how bloody difficult it is to walk away from you.”

“Then don’t.”

Purchase at Amazon

Meet the Author

Lane Hayes is grateful to finally be doing what she loves best. Writing full-time! It’s no secret Lane loves a good romance novel. An avid reader from an early age, she has always been drawn to well-told love story with beautifully written characters. These days she prefers the leading roles to both be men. Lane discovered the M/M genre a few years ago and was instantly hooked. Her debut novel was a 2013 Rainbow Award finalist and subsequent books have received Honorable Mentions, and were winners in the 2016 Rainbow Awards. She loves red wine, chocolate and travel (in no particular order). Lane lives in Southern California with her amazing husband in a newly empty nest.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

 

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A MelanieM Review :Renewal : 3rd Annual Queer SyFy Flash Fiction Anthology

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Re.new.al (noun)

1) Resuming an activity after an interruption, or
2) Extending a contract, subscription or license, or
3) Replacing or repairing something that is worn out,
run-down, or broken, or
4) Rebirth after death.

Four definitions to spark inspiration, a limitless number of stories to be conceived. Only 110 made the cut.

Thrilling to hopeful, Renewal features 300-word speculative fiction ficlets about sexual and gender minorities to entice readers.

Welcome to Renewal.

I am such a fan of flash fiction, the ability to  tell a complete story in 300 words or less.  Renewal is Queer SyFy’s Fourth year’s collection of flash fiction and what an incredible winner it is. Like a library full of tiny jewels, Renewal‘s flash fiction is glorious in it’s presentation of the dizzying array of imaginative themes and world building by it’s host of authors, the authors represented, the timeliness and resonance of some of their flash fiction storylines and the huge spectrum of genres included from horror to fantasy to science fiction.

Also by the sheer poetry of some of it’s stories.  As you can imagine, given the shortness of the fiction, the quantity of stories within is immense.  So are the number I call favorites, far too many to list here.  And it’s funny, you read them so quickly, that you can be several stories past one before the impact it leaves kicks in.  The “huh, no, let me think about that” that leads to you flipping back to that tale and pondering the thoughts of the author may have had writing it.  Trust me, there are many of those.

Over and over again, authors stopped my in my “reading tracks”, left breathless by what was before me.

Under Science Fiction Part II (yes it’s divided into sections like Horror and Fantasy etc), there is this story whose lyrical imagery has stayed with me:

I Will Be Your Shelter by Carey Ford Compton.  I would have bought this collection for this flash fiction alone based on this.  I will give you but this small moment from the story that still makes me weep with appreciation:

The operating room is blue, sterile. We are awake for the procedure. Surgeons slice into our numbed, shaved scalps. The drill bites. Lights, metallic tongue, clicks of bone.

Then: she bleeds into me like watercolor.

Such power, such beauty.  And this collection is full of such haunting tales.

As J. Scott Coatsworth said in his introduction “this collection includes many colors of the LGBTIQA (or QUILTBAG, if you prefer) universe—lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer and asexual characters populate these pages—it was our most diverse contest yet.”

I also think it was Queer SyFy’s most outstanding. With pertinent quotes by authors at the beginning of each section and a easily accessible table of contents (I used it often to go back to stories I wanted to reread that I bookmarked), Renewal is a collection of stories that will make you think, occasionally laugh, push some boundaries, give you new authors to explore, and much, much, more.   Don’t you love it when that happens?

And yes, I highly recommend it!

Included Authors

‘Nathan Burgoine
A.M. Leibowitz
A.M. Soto
Abby Bartle
Aidee Ladnier
Alexis Woods
Andi Deacon
Andrea Felber Seligman
Andrea Speed
Andrea Stanet
Anne McPherson
Bey Deckard
Brigitte Winter
Carey Ford Compton
Carol Holland March
Carrie Pack
Catherine Lundoff
CB Lee
Christine Wright
Colton Aalto
Daniel Mitton
Dustin Blottenberger
Dustin Karpovich
E R Zhang
E.J. Russell
E.W. Murks
Ell Schulman
Ellery Jude
Eloreen Moon
Elsa M León
Emily Horner
Eric Alan Westfall
F.T. Lukens
Fenrir Cerebellion
Foster Bridget Cassidy
Ginger Streusel
Hannah Henry
Irene Preston
J. Alan Veerkamp
J. P. Egry
J. Summerset
J.S. Fields
Jaap Boekestein
Jackie Keswick
Jana Denardo
Jeff Baker
Jenn Burke
Joe Baumann
John Moralee
Jon Keys
Jude Dunn
K.C. Faelan
Kelly Haworth
Kiterie Aine
Kristen Lee
L M Somerton
L. Brian Carroll
L.M. Brown
L.V. Lloyd
Laurie Treacy
Leigh M. Lorien
Lex Chase
Lia Harding
Lin Kelly
Lloyd A. Meeker
Lyda Morehouse
M.D. Grimm
Martha J. Allard
Mary E. Lowd
Matt Doyle
Matthew Bright
Mia Koutras
Michelle Browne
Milo Owen
Mindy Leana Shuman
Naomi Tajedler
Natsuya Uesugi
Nephy Hart
Nicole Dennis
Ofelia Gränd
Patricia Scott
Paul Stevens
PW Covington
R R Angell
R.L. Merrill
Rebecca Cohen
Redfern Jon Barrett
Reni Kieffer
Richard Amos
RL Mosswood
Robyn Walker
Rory Ni Coileain
Rose Blackthorn
Ross Common
S R Jones
Sacchi Green
Sarah Einstein
Shilo Quetchenbach
Siri Paulson
Soren Summers
Stephanie Shaffer
Steve Fuson
Tam Ames
Terry Poole
Tray Ellis
Vivien Dean
Wendy Rathbone
Xenia Melzer
Zen DiPietro
Zev de Valera

Cover art by Gus Li is just gorgeous!

Sales Links:Mischief Corner Books (info only) | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Goodreads

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 196 pages
Published September 13th 2017 by Mischief Corner Books, LLC
ASINB074ZPB4ZM
Edition Language English

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Leaning Into Always (Leaning Into Stories #1.5) by Lane Hayes

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Let me start by saying I love Lane Hayes’s work, so I immediately jumped at the chance to read this one for review. I was given three weeks, but I took less than three days to read it, savor it, and write this review. This story was delicious, delightful, and decadent. Better than a fine piece of chocolate!

Set in San Francisco, this story was originally part of an anthology and is now going to be the start of a new series. All I can say is “Sign me up!” because if the rest are anything like this one, I’m all in.

There’s not much I love more than a geek, so I was quite happy to find that Eric Shuster is that and more. He’s also cute, humble, sweet, and the type of person who sees to the needs of his friends before his own. His work partner and ex-lover, Nick, has announced that he’s getting married, but Eric can see immediately that he’s marrying for money, not love. The girl is the daughter of a wealthy investor and Nick is always on the lookout for more funds for their technology company, whether they need them or not.

As the story evolves, Eric finally faces the fact that he and Nick were really never in love, just friends and fuck buddies, and there’s no reason to grieve his loss. He ends up spending more time with his friends, especially Zane Richards, a handsome sportsman who loves his water sports, whether they be surfing, water polo, or sailing. In fact, Zane has his own company working with the wealthy who need an experienced yachtsman to simply sail or to race. Eric and Zane become closer than they’ve ever been in the dozen years they’ve known each other as they rediscover their likes and dislikes and explore a deeper connection than the usual surface level among friends.

I highly enjoyed watching their friends-to-lovers relationship develop. Ms. Hayes provided the perfect amount of heat and humor and even a little angst, though thankfully that wasn’t overdone. Just give me a love story that will cheer me up, make me break out my personal fan, and leave me feeling warm and fuzzy and you’ve made my day. This one made my day. I highly recommend it to all MM romance lovers, and especially to those who enjoy friends-to-lovers romances. Yummy!

~~~~

Cover art by Reese Dante shows a male naked torso against a scenic background photo depicting the Golden Gate Bridge with sailboats gracefully floating along below on the deep-blue water of the bay. It feels refreshing and is both attractive and pertinent to the story.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 100 pages
Published September 5th 2017 by Lane Hayes
Original TitleLeaning Into Always
ASINB075CVSKG6
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesLeaning Into Stories #1.5

A Lila Review: The Dragon’s Devotion (Chronicles of Tournai Book 5) by Antonia Aquilante

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

 

Corentin is a scholar with a secret—his magical Talent allows him to turn into a dragon, and he isn’t alone in that ability. Long ago, dragons were hunted fiercely, until they went into hiding, becoming things of legend. Corentin has traveled the world with one aim—to protect his people and keep their secret safe. Drawn to the principality of Tournai by news of someone close to discovering that secret, he hopes to avert suspicion. His attraction to the too-serious Bastien isn’t convenient for his purpose, but it isn’t something he can ignore either.

Lord Bastien, Earl of Ardesia, inherited his title unexpectedly when his parents were killed in a sailing accident along with the parents of his cousin, Prince Philip. Since then, Bastien has devoted his life to the obligations of his family and estate—so much so, that it has caused tension between him and his siblings. His world is further shaken when he receives an anonymous letter informing him that the tragic boating accident may, in fact, have been murder. Bastien throws himself into investigating whether the allegations are true and finding out who killed his parents.

As Corentin and Bastien become closer, the mystery of Bastien’s parents’ death draws him further into danger. Corentin feels compelled to protect Bastien, but the threat is closer than they know. Now, Corentin must decide whether preserving his secret—and potentially his people’s safety—is more important than saving the man he loves.

 

The Dragon’s Devotion is a slow burn, suspense story. It can be read as a stand-alone, but the details would make more sense after reading at least one of the previous books. In my case, I have read books three and four, which give a good overall background about the world-build and the rest of the cast.

 

This installment starts shortly after the last one and we get to know how important is for Corentin to keep his secret from others, including the royal family and their sorcerer. Etan’s research is the main reason he comes to Tournai and thanks to an invitation to Etan’s wedding to Tristan, Corentin gets to meet Bastian.

 

Bastian’s responsibilities have taken over his life since his parents’ deaths and only his obligation to attend the wedding and his need for answers brings him to town. This secondary information becomes the plot of the story, adding obstacles to the main love story.

 

The story moves slowly and has a lot of details. Most of them add to the story’s enjoyment, but others drag the pacing a bit. This isn’t a quick book to read, details matter and the story threads are important. It’s perfect for fantasy lovers and for those looking for more than a romance angle.

 

The book is well-written and entertaining. It has angst and dramatic moments, but it also has some comedic relief. I wish the MCs had a stronger connection, but their times together were lovely. I did enjoy their courting, too.

 

The cover by Natasha Snow is nice, but a bit dark for the story’s tone. It does have the basic elements described but it lacks a connection to the heart of the tale.

 

Sale Links

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

 

Book Details:

 

ebook, 286 pages
Published: September 4, 2017, by NineStar Press
ISBN: 9781947139787
Edition Language: English

 

Series:  Chronicles of Tournai
Book #1: The Prince’s Consort
Book #2: The Artist’s Masquerade
Book #3: The Scholar’s Heart
Book #4: The Sorcerer’s Guardian

Book #5: The Dragon’s Devotion

Antonia Aquilante on Dragons and her latest release ‘The Dragon’s Devotion (Chronicles of Tournai #5) – (author guest post, excerpt, and giveaway)

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Title:  The Dragon’s Devotion

Series: Chronicles of Tournai, Book Five

Author: Antonia Aquilante

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: September 4, 2017

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 108100

Genre: Fantasy, fantasy, paranormal, shifters, dragons, magic users, bisexual, family drama, abduction/kidnapping, political intrigue, royalty

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Antonia Aquilante on Dragons

I’ve been a fantasy reader forever, it seems (and a romance reader too, but that’s probably another post). When I was very little, fairy tales were always my favorite stories. As I got older, that love of magic and magical worlds (and happily ever afters) in my stories stuck with me. I don’t exclusively read fantasy or fantasy romance, nowhere near that really because I read so many things, but I still love those stories. I really loves stories that have dragons in them.

I’ve been trying to remember if there were any books with dragons in them from when I was very little, but I can’t really remember any. Disney’s Sleeping Beauty is probably one of the first movies I saw with a dragon (maybe?), but while Malificent’s dragon is very impressive, it’s never my favorite when the dragon is bad and has to be defeated. At some point in elementary school, I found Patricia C. Wrede’s Enchanted Forest Chronicles, which begins with Dealing with Dragons. I think I discovered it at a school book sale, and the combination of princess, dragon, and enchanted forest was irresistible to child me. I remember loving those books, and I still have the battered copies on my bookshelf. I’m tempted to pull them down and reread them now. I think I was twelve when I discovered Anne McCaffrey’s dragonriders, and I binged through those books and then faithfully read new ones as they came out, all the while dreaming of being a dragonrider. There have been so many other books in the years since that I’ve loved (I probably have recs, and please rec me dragon books you love!) and sparked my imagination.

So it was probably inevitable that I would write about dragons sometime. There’s just something about them—the power and the beauty, the awe-inspiring majesty of a dragon in flight. Before I wrote one word of the first Tournai book, I knew that dragons existed in this world. Granted, I had an entirely different story in mind to write about them—though the basics of the dragons’ backstory and abilities remained the same—but when does anything I write go exactly to plan? I’ve dropped vague hints about dragons in a couple of the previous books, none of which are necessary for you to understand this one, but enough that some readers noticed and have been asking me what’s going on with the dragons. I’ve been mean and didn’t tell, but The Dragon’s Devotion will give you some answers.

My dragons in the world of Tournai are people with the magical ability to turn into dragons. They are the stuff of legends, having faded into stories as time passed, and that’s just the way they want it for their own safety. I spent a lot of time figuring out dragon history and society. Some of it comes out in The Dragon’s Devotion, but some of it wasn’t necessary in this story. I definitely have plans to work more of it in future stories, though, and maybe even spin something off for more about dragons outside Tournai. We’ll see.

Writing the scenes with Corentin using his magic to become a dragon was so much fun. He’s keeping what he is a secret, so he has to be very careful about when and where he changes, but when he can, there is such relief and joy in him. I loved imagining what he would look like and how it would feel for him to fly out over the ocean. The scene when Bastien finds out is one of my favorites in the book. We get to see Corentin as a dragon through Bastien’s eyes and Bastien’s reactions. I’m hoping you’ll love it too.

Synopsis

Corentin is a scholar with a secret—his magical Talent allows him to turn into a dragon, and he isn’t alone in that ability. Long ago, dragons were hunted fiercely, until they went into hiding, becoming things of legend. Corentin has traveled the world with one aim—to protect his people and keep their secret safe. Drawn to the principality of Tournai by news of someone close to discovering that secret, he hopes to avert suspicion. His attraction to the too-serious Bastien isn’t convenient for his purpose, but it isn’t something he can ignore either.

Lord Bastien, Earl of Ardesia, inherited his title unexpectedly when his parents were killed in a sailing accident along with the parents of his cousin, Prince Philip. Since then, Bastien has devoted his life to the obligations of his family and estate—so much so, that it has caused tension between him and his siblings. His world is further shaken when he receives an anonymous letter informing him that the tragic boating accident may, in fact, have been murder. Bastien throws himself into investigating whether the allegations are true and finding out who killed his parents.

As Corentin and Bastien become closer, the mystery of Bastien’s parents’ death draws him further into danger. Corentin feels compelled to protect Bastien, but the threat is closer than they know. Now, Corentin must decide whether preserving his secret—and potentially his people’s safety—is more important than saving the man he loves.

Excerpt

The Dragon’s Devotion
Antonia Aquilante © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One

In the privacy of his small office, Corentin circled his neck and rolled his bare shoulders and back, trying to loosen the stiffness there—impossible because his muscles weren’t really stiff. But he did it anyway. It was just that he hadn’t changed and stretched his wings in far too long. Whether real or imagined, it had always been this way if he didn’t use his Talent regularly. Only how was he to accomplish that in this place?

There wasn’t anywhere in the capital city where he could change unseen, and few places close to Jumelle where a large dragon would go unnoticed.

But while he was in Tournai, he’d have to deal with it. He’d managed a few night flights out over the sea when there wasn’t much moonlight. He’d have to get away for another as soon as he could without rousing suspicion. Not that he was being watched, or that anyone suspected what he was, but if a foreign scholar slipped away too many times with no explanation and someone were to notice… He didn’t want to take the risk. He’d come to the principality of Tournai to make sure no one knew of dragons; he wasn’t going to risk anyone finding out from him.

With a sigh, he reached for a fresh shirt from the cabinet in the corner. It wasn’t entirely appropriate for the university, but the more formal shirt and tunic he’d been wearing for this morning’s early lecture had been ruined when he’d walked into a sorcery student’s experiment out on the lawn. The lack of formality of his new attire wouldn’t be a problem since he’d only be working in his office.

He’d just lifted the shirt over his head and was letting it fall over his shoulders when he heard the creak of the floorboard a step inside his office, warning him too late that he wasn’t alone.

His own fault. He’d gotten complacent about pushing the door closed since he was usually the only one on this corridor. And he’d just been chastising himself about not giving away his secrets.

He whipped around, and the man who’d caused the creak froze just inside the room. His tall frame was elegantly and expensively attired, his pale blond hair perfectly styled, his exceedingly handsome face brimming with shock and curiosity. Corentin’s stomach sank. He knew what this man was—he’d made a point of avoiding him because of that knowledge. Master Savarin, the most powerful sorcerer in Tournai, stood just inside his office. He’d obviously seen the markings on Corentin’s back, the faint, shimmering scale pattern that marked him as one with the Talent to become a dragon.

Corentin froze as well, a litany of curses running through his mind. Anyone who saw the pattern would know what he was. Or, anyone at home would know, at least. He’d come to Tournai because there were whispers of the prince’s cousin Etan looking into dragon legends. Lord Etan, a young scholar who often lectured at the university, was well-respected, and his interest was enough to worry Corentin. But Etan had only theories—some quite close to the truth but nothing proven.

The question was: what did Master Savarin know? He was a powerful sorcerer, and a scholar as well, which was why Corentin made a point of avoiding him. Corentin had already displayed too much of his power by using it recently to help find a kidnapped child, but it could still be passed off as merely a powerful fire Talent. Dragons were myth and legend these days. He could bluff his way through this… as long as Master Savarin didn’t know what the markings signified.

Corentin forced himself to relax, to present a casual demeanor he didn’t feel. He reached for his spare jacket, shrugging into it as he spoke. “Master Savarin, isn’t it? What can I do for you?”

Silvery gray eyes focused on him. “What are those? On your back.”

Corentin buttoned the jacket, keeping his movements unhurried. He would not look as if he was trying to hide anything. “On my back? You mean the tattoos? I suppose they’re not quite genteel, but…” He shrugged.

Master Savarin’s gaze sharpened. “Those are not tattoos. I’ve never seen tattoos that look like that.”

“Have you seen many tattoos?” Corentin asked, keeping his voice mild.

“Some.”

“I wouldn’t think they’re very common in the circles you move in. Or at least I haven’t seen many tattoos during my time here at the university.” Was this argument going to get him anywhere except into more trouble? He needed to divert attention from the markings, not discuss them interminably.

“Perhaps I know different people than you think.” Master Savarin’s attention never wavered even as Corentin used his most forbidding stoney mask.

“I got these on my travels. Perhaps they’re different from the ones you’ve seen.” Maybe that would be the end of it.

“I’m rather well traveled myself. I still haven’t seen anything like that.”

“You can’t have seen everything.”

When he saw the suspicious glint sharpen in Savarin’s eyes, Corentin wondered if he’d gone too far. Was it the words or the smooth tone with just a hint of flirtation that took him a step further than he should have gone? The question was what would Savarin do. And what did he know?

Savarin laughed, a smooth, practiced laugh probably not out of place at the court of Prince Philip and his consort Amory. “No one could, but I’m certainly doing my best.”

Corentin propped a hip on the edge of his desk, letting out a laugh of his own and fixing a charming smile on his face. He could still divert this conversation. “A fellow traveler. I’m doing my best to see everything as well. Insatiable curiosity, I suppose.”

“A thirst for knowledge and new experiences.”

“Yes, I’m always eager to see and experience new things on my travels.”

“I am as well.” Savarin tilted his head slightly, regarding Corentin in a way he couldn’t decipher. “Of course, sometimes I don’t have to leave home to find new experiences.”

For a moment, he wondered if Savarin was flirting. “A true scholar is always learning.”

“Yes, exactly.”

“It’s why I came here, why I travel in the first place.”

Savarin nodded. “I don’t think I ever heard where you’re from.”

Corentin’s guard went back up. “Far from here. A small place in the foothills of the Nashira Mountains.” Not exactly the truth but close enough. “No one’s ever heard of it. A reason to travel, yes? If you come from somewhere so small and isolated?”

“I suppose it is. I grew up here, so I didn’t have the same experience.”

He hadn’t heard much other than that about Savarin’s vague origins. “No, you wouldn’t have. Jumelle is a vibrant, busy city from what I’ve seen. So many people from so many places. So much knowledge here at the university.”

“Yes. And with all that, and all my travels, I’ve never heard of magic of the kind you performed.”

Corentin forced himself to remain calm, to appear calm at least. “Magic I performed?”

Playing dumb to stall would probably get him nowhere, but he did it anyway. And of course Savarin proved him right, because the man wasn’t stupid. “Yes, the magic you used to help recover Master Tristan’s baby daughter when she was kidnapped earlier this year.”

Since the incident, he’d been kicking himself for using the magic, and he’d done his best to avoid Savarin’s attempts to question him about it. But what could he have done? He hadn’t met Master Tristan, who was a merchant in Jumelle, before that day. He’d gone to have lunch with Etan and found the palace in an uproar because his infant daughter was missing. As much as he wanted to not draw attention to what he was, he couldn’t have lived with himself if he hadn’t offered to help.

And his help had aided the royal guard and Savarin in finding the baby. Both Etan and Master Tristan had been extremely grateful, and Etan, who was soon to marry Tristan, had said he was in Corentin’s debt.

“It was no great or special magic, but I was happy to be able to help. Horrifying that a baby would be stolen from her home,” he said.

“I have to disagree about the magic being special. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“You didn’t see it, so I can’t imagine how you would know.” His words came out sharper than he intended, and he regretted it immediately, but there was nothing for it now.

“It was described to me in detail,” Savarin said, showing no reaction to Corentin’s slip in tone. “You told Lord Etan, Master Tristan, and Lord Flavian that you have a fire Talent, but I’ve never seen someone with a fire Talent do what you did.”

“I doubt you’ve met every person with a fire Talent in the world.” He tried to say it lightly, almost joking, but annoyance at the questioning was layering over his worry.

“No, but I’ve spent my life studying magic and the different Talents people possess. I have a touch of a fire Talent myself. So I know something about it.” Before Corentin could decide what to say next, Savarin continued. “At first, when I’d heard what happened, I was simply curious. I wondered what you’d done and if I could learn how to as well. But when I asked to talk with you, you put me off. And soon I realized you were avoiding me. That’s when I got suspicious. Because you had no reason to avoid me.”

“Perhaps I didn’t feel the need to be interrogated about an uninteresting bit of magic used to help someone recover his child.”

“But the magic wasn’t uninteresting to me. And it wouldn’t have been an interrogation. It would have been two scholars—two men with Talent—discussing magic. From what I’ve heard, you have no problem engaging with scholars here. You and Lord Etan meet often to talk about your respective work. Given that, surely you can see how I might suspect you’d done something you wouldn’t want anyone to know about? Something that might even be dangerous to Tournai or its royal family.”

“I resent that implication. You’ll remember I used the magic to help Tournai’s royal family.” Corentin kept his voice steady, but he silently cursed himself. He hadn’t meant to become more conspicuous by putting Savarin off, but he’d needed more information, and a plausible story. Keeping away from him had seemed best if the alternative was giving away who and what he was. Now he wasn’t so sure.

“I haven’t forgotten.” Savarin’s tone wasn’t anything other than what could be termed condescending. But Corentin expected arrogance from him. “Neither does that mean you don’t have bad intentions. A smart man knows to bide his time, to gain the trust of others, before—”

“Before what? Betraying it? I do have some loyalty, and whatever you think, I helped out of the desire to see an innocent child brought home to her father.” Corentin regarded Savarin steadily, not giving him a flicker of anything he might twist into more suspicion. “I assume you used your magic to help for much the same reason.”

“I did. But it’s your behavior afterward that reflects poorly on you. You’re lucky I haven’t alerted anyone else to my suspicions.”

Corentin forced himself not to react to the threat in those words. He’d heard rumors, whispers, of spies being found in Jumelle, sent to ferret out information by the conquest-mad emperor of Ardunn. The Ardunn empire had been conquering and absorbing countries to its east for years, and it was rumored that its emperor had his sights set on Tournai, which was wealthy and strategically located on the western half of the continent. He had no love for Ardunn himself—the empire’s borders had expanded far too close to his home, which remained safe and hidden only due to the impassable mountains—so he could understand that there might be an air of caution. Would vague suspicions be enough in Tournai’s current climate? Savarin was trusted. Would his word be taken without any other proof?

“I don’t know what you think I’ve done, or am planning to do.”

“My suspicions might be nebulous, but my concern is for the safety of my country and its royal family when they are in such close proximity to an unknown and potentially dangerous magic.” Savarin seemed about to say something else, but at that moment, the university bells chimed the hour. He cursed under his breath. “I have to go to the palace for a meeting with the princes.”

Corentin nodded, glad for the reprieve. “Of course. We’ll finish our discussion at another time.”

A time long in the future, if ever.

Savarin hesitated and then seemed to come to some sort of decision. Dread flooded Corentin. “No. I’m not going to chance you getting away from me again.”

“Excuse me?”

“I’m going to make sure you’re here waiting when I return from my meeting,” Savarin said as he stepped back through the doorway.

“I say again, excuse me? I might agree to wait for you, but I can’t see what you can do otherwise.”

Savarin’s lips curled into something that was almost a smile, but very definitely smug, and Corentin’s dread grew stronger. Corentin strode toward Savarin, not sure whether he would throttle the man or stride past him and away, putting an end to an infuriating and nerve-wracking confrontation. Before he could make the decision, he hit an invisible barrier in the doorway and stumbled back a step.

He put a hand up, flattening it against the magic that barred his path, a wall he couldn’t see. “What have you done?”

“Ensured that you’ll still be here to finish this,” Savarin said, as if it made complete sense for him to trap another person against his will, as if it was all right.

“You think I’m going to run away?”

“I think you’re going to go back to avoiding me, and I can’t have that. We’ll continue our discussion when I return.”

“You can’t do this,” Corentin bit out, but the sorcerer had already turned away, and a moment later he had disappeared down the stairs.

Purchase

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Meet the Author

Antonia Aquilante has been making up stories for as long as she can remember, and at the age of twelve, decided she would be a writer when she grew up. After many years and a few career detours, she has returned to that original plan. Her stories have changed over the years, but one thing has remained consistent—they all end in happily ever after.

She has a fondness for travel (and a long list of places she wants to visit and revisit), taking photos, family history, fabulous shoes, baking treats (which she shares with friends and family), and of course, reading. She usually has at least two books started at once and never goes anywhere without her Kindle. Though she is a convert to e-books, she still loves paper books the best, and there are a couple thousand of them residing in her home with her.

Born and raised in New Jersey, Antonia is living there again after years in Washington, DC and North Carolina for school and work. She enjoys being back in the Garden State but admits to being tempted every so often to run away from home and live in Italy.

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9/8      Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews

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RELEASE BLITZ Leaning Into Always (Leaning Into Stories #1 Part 2) by Lane Hayes (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Leaning Into Always

Series: Leaning Into Stories, #1, Part 2

Author: Lane Hayes

Publisher: Self Pub

Release Date: September 5

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 30k

Genre: Romance, Bisexual, Established Couple, San Fran, Beach, Surfer, Geek, Opposites Attract, Friends to lovers

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Synopsis

Life is good for Eric Schuster. He owns a highly successful tech company, has a great group of buddies, and he’s about to marry the man of his dreams. Eric is pleasantly surprised to find the transition from friends to lovers has been easier than he thought. However, after running into an overly friendly ex-boyfriend on an impromptu trip to their shared hometown, Eric realizes things are about to get complicated.

Zane Richards is a quintessential California surfer dude turned professional sailor. His laid-back approach has helped him navigate difficult times in his life. Eric may not share his easy-going mindset but Zane knows without a doubt Eric is the one. However, carving a future together may require confronting a piece of the past Zane thought he’d left far behind. Both men will have to decide if they’re willing to risk what they know for a chance to lean into always.

Excerpt

“Hmm. I want to drop this, but…I have one last question. What did you mean about ‘being from here?’ I know San Francisco is home now but this is a nice place too. I always thought it would be kind of cool to move back someday so I could—”

“No. No way. Never,” I replied emphatically.

I tried and failed again to make a getaway. Zane pounced on me and held me down, snaking his arm across my chest to keep me next to him.

“O-kay…where’s this coming from?”

“I can’t explain it. You wouldn’t understand.”

“Try me.”

“It sounds stupid.” I met his patient gaze, hoping he’d cut me some slack, but he didn’t budge and I had a feeling he wouldn’t until I spit it out. “Fine. I was teased pretty mercilessly for being a geek from kindergarten through high school. I never fit in. I wasn’t blond, athletic, or particularly charming. I was smart. Smarter than I appear to be now,” I huffed.

“Who bullied you? I’m gonna kick some ass. No one messes with my man,” he said, nuzzling my neck.

I chuckled, running my fingers along his spine. “Thanks. I told you it sounded lame. I’m a perfectly well-adjusted adult when I’m not here. And I’m actually pretty good when I come for quick family visits, but this feels different. It feels like I’m being thrown back in time and forced to hang out with the cool kids. Today was a great example. I made a fool of myself out there and I made you mad. Yeah, I was jealous but that was only part of it. I also wanted to prove I’d grown up a little and that I wasn’t the same sunscreen-caked dork who’d sit under an umbrella and read when he went to the beach anymore. I guess I still am.”

“You seem to be forgetting one major detail, Er.”

I traced the laugh-lines at the corner of his eyes and pushed his hair from his forehead. “What is it?”

“I like you just the way you are. I don’t expect you to change and develop a sudden passion for things I enjoy doing. Just be you. And if that means you’d rather finish a chapter lounging in the sand than jump in the water, that’s okay by me.”

“Thank you.”

“Don’t thank me. It comes with the territory. I wouldn’t want to spend the rest of my life with you if I didn’t love all your weird habits,” he teased, pulling us both to sit up.

“Weird? Me? I bet you can’t name three weird things about me,” I declared as I sauntered toward the bathroom.

“I bet I can name ten. I’ll give you my list at breakfast. Jump in the shower while I call housekeeping and ask them to change our sheets.”

I stopped in the doorway and frowned. “Just tell them I spilled water on them or something.”

“Why lie? I’m going to tell them my boyfriend got jizz on my side of the bed and…”

I shook my head mournfully and turned on the shower to drown out his silly speech about being stuck with a messy lover and crusty sheets. I chuckled at his ‘put upon’ tone and called for him to join me before stepping under the spray. I stopped abruptly and backed up to look at my reflection. My cheeks were flushed, my eyes were bright, and my smile spanned my entire face. I was incredibly happy and if I said so myself, it looked good on me.

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Meet the Author

Lane Hayes is grateful to finally be doing what she loves best. Writing full-time! It’s no secret Lane loves a good romance novel. An avid reader from an early age, she has always been drawn to well-told love story with beautifully written characters. These days she prefers the leading roles to both be men. Lane discovered the M/M genre a few years ago and was instantly hooked. Her debut novel was a 2013 Rainbow Award finalist and subsequent books have received Honorable Mentions, and were winners in the 2016 Rainbow Awards. She loves red wine, chocolate and travel (in no particular order). Lane lives in Southern California with her amazing husband in an almost empty nest.

Books by Lane Hayes:

Better Than Good, Better Than Chance, Better Than Friends, Better Than Safe, The Right Words, The Wrong Man & The Right Time, Leaning Into Love and Leaning Into the Fall, A Kind Of Truth, A Kind of Romance, A Kind of Honesty, A Kind of Home AND A Way with Words

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | eMail

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Release Tour for The One Thing I Know (B-Sides #1) by Keelan Ellis (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  The One Thing I Know

Series: B-Sides, Book One

Author: Keelan Ellis

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: Aug 14, 2017

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 66600

Genre: Historical, romance, gay, bisexual, historical-1970’s, California, musicians, rock star, drugs/alcohol use, enemies to lovers, road trip

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Synopsis

Talented studio musician, Henry Cole, is offered the dream job of touring with popular rock band, the Vulgar Details. Things aren’t all rosy, though, as he is hired to replace Dell Miller, creative force behind the band, who recently flamed-out in a car accident.

Henry is all too aware that he’s no replacement for someone like Dell. He’s not the only one who feels that way, either. Terry Blackwood, band front man, has been giving him a hard time even before the tour start. He seems to resent Henry’s presence beyond all reason. What Henry doesn’t know is that Terry and Dell’s relationship was both intensely close and fraught with conflict.

Terry’s grief over Dell’s death is overwhelming and threatens to destroy not only the band but his life. It doesn’t help that the new member of the band makes him feel things he doesn’t want to. Worse, when he sings, Henry sounds just like the man Terry cared so deeply for.

With so much at stake, everything could come crashing down around them and mean the end for the Vulgar Details. Or, just maybe, Henry and Terry will find the one thing they need most.

Sometimes redemption comes from the last place you expect to find it.

Excerpt

The One Thing I Know
Keelan Ellis © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One

January 1972

Henry woke up to the sound of the shower turning on in the bathroom down the hall. He got up and sorted through the clothes strewn around on the floor, separating his from his guest’s. The two pairs of white briefs were, unfortunately, the same brand and size, so he took his best guess and tossed one of them on top of the pile he was holding. He set the whole thing down outside the bathroom door and went to the kitchen to make coffee. He lit a cigarette and opened the window above the sink. The shower shut off just as the coffee finished brewing, and a few minutes later, his previous evening’s date appeared in the doorway. His name was Danny, and they’d been introduced by a mutual acquaintance. He was as cute as he was dumb, but Henry was fairly certain one night had been enough to satisfy his curiosity.

“Morning,” Henry said. “There’s coffee if you want it.”

“Thanks,” Danny said. He poured some into a cup and leaned against the counter. “Hey, I’m going to the beach later. You want me to stop by and pick you up?”

“Nah. I have work.”

“Oh, right. On the Details’ new record, wasn’t it?”

Henry nodded. He was slated to play pedal steel and Dobro on six tracks for the Vulgar Details’ upcoming album. It wasn’t the first time he’d played with those guys. The band counted on Henry to fill in the gaps whenever their songwriter and pedal steel player, Dell Miller, was off taking peyote in the desert or barricading himself in a hotel room shooting up with whoever he’d brought home that night. Henry had never met Dell and still thought of him as more myth than man. “I should get in the shower pretty soon,” he hinted.

Danny either didn’t pick up on it or didn’t care, and he poured more coffee into his cup. “You think it’s going to be a good one?”

“I think it’s the best one yet.” He rinsed his cup out and put it in the drainer. “I need to get ready. Thanks for coming over. It was fun.”

Danny raised his eyebrows at him, and his lips turned up with wry amusement. Maybe he wasn’t as dumb as Henry had thought. “Sure thing. You got my number. Call if you want.” He set his cup down and gave a little salute before he left. Definitely cute, Henry couldn’t deny that.

Henry got to the studio early and ran through his parts before the band arrived. The songs that Henry had learned for that day’s session were, hands down, the best work the band had done. The new songs were dark and personal, explorations of loss and hopelessness, set to some of the loveliest melodies he’d ever heard. The Vulgar Details had come so far from their beginnings as a brash blues rock band that they were almost unrecognizable. Henry had never thought of them as anything special until their third album, Heart’s Desire, was released back in ’69.

Henry had been lying by the pool at his friend Richard’s house, passing a joint back and forth with him, when he first heard that record. Henry was twenty-four then, and Richard was ten years older, with family money and a beautiful house he’d had built in Laurel Canyon. He threw amazing parties attended by young musicians and hippie hangers-on who were there for the free food, booze, and drugs. Richard didn’t care why they were there. He loved the beautiful boys and girls, the music, and the easily available sex. When he wasn’t partying, he liked having Henry around. Sometimes they fooled around, but Richard never made it seem like a requirement. That day, when he put on the new Vulgar Details record, Henry scoffed.

“I thought you had more interesting taste than that,” he said.

“You’re getting too old to be such a snob.”

Henry stretched and grinned up at him. “Probably getting too old for you, then, huh?”

Richard smiled, shook his head, and sat back down. “Give it a chance. You might be surprised.”

It started out sounding much like all of their previous stuff, but somehow better. Previously, their songs tended toward aimless, slightly silly rip-offs of “Mr. Tambourine Man,” or juvenile rock and roll songs about pretty girls. These were something else altogether. They dealt with love, anger, and desire—the subjects of most rock lyrics—but with a depth almost never heard in popular music.

“Jesus, this is great,” Henry said. “Where the hell did it come from? Did Terry Blackwood get a brain transplant or something?”

Richard laughed. “Not quite. They got a new member. Don’t you follow this stuff, working in the industry?”

“Must have missed that one.”

“His name’s Dell Miller. Actually, he was at that party you came to last month. Skinny, pretty, long-haired country boy? Walked around with his shirt open the whole time?”

“Oh yeah. I think I remember him. The girls were all over him. He wrote all of these?”

“All the good ones,” Richard said.

The last song on the album, “Traveling Abroad,” was the best one, and Henry insisted playing it three times in a row. It had an entirely different sound from the rest of them. It was almost a traditional country song, but the arrangement was complex and the lyrics made him want to cry. There was so much yearning in it that it was almost hard to listen to. When he left Richard’s house that afternoon, he went straight to the nearest record store to buy his own copy.

That was three years and two albums earlier. The Vulgar Details had only gotten better, despite Miller’s increasingly unreliable presence. The band’s sound drifted more and more toward the mellow country- and bluegrass-influenced style Miller had brought with him from Tennessee. A few of the blues rock numbers that were Terence Blackwood’s bread and butter still remained, but these no longer represented the bulk of their output. This new album took that even further, and Henry had to wonder how the rest of the band—Blackwood in particular—felt about that. In most bands, a shift like that would have led to at least one angry departure. Somehow, the Details had managed to keep it together without any public drama, unless you counted Miller’s multiple rehab stays and a short stint in jail for public intoxication and possession.

They weren’t planning to record any vocals that day, so Blackwood wasn’t around. The lead guitarist, Steve Smith, and drummer, Kenny Sailes, had entered the studio in the middle of a contentious but good-natured disagreement over which one of them would be harder to replace if they went into rehab. Alex Benton, the bass player, shook Henry’s hand and gave him a one-armed hug.

“Maybe you can settle that argument, Cole,” he said, grinning.

“They can both go, as far as I’m concerned,” Henry said. “You’ll have to tough it out, though, Benton. I don’t like playing bass.”

“You heard him, you assholes. Cole here is gunning for you, and he’s a man of many skills. Watch your backs.”

“Not me. I don’t want to be a rock-and-roll star. I prefer to work for a living.” They all laughed, and Henry said, “So, uh…how is Dell doing, anyway? Rehab working out, I hope?”

The mood turned slightly somber, and they all glanced down at the floor. Finally, Smith shrugged and said, “Terry said the place looked pretty nice, and Dell told him he was actually going to try this time. Who the fuck knows.”

Benton sighed and nodded. Sailes snorted skeptically and muttered, “I think we all pretty much know, Steve.”

“Sorry,” Henry said. “I didn’t mean to—”

“Don’t worry about it,” Benton said. “It’s not your fault. You gotta understand, we’ve been on this ride a few times, man. Dell is…Dell.”

Henry cleared his throat. “Well, anyway—the new songs sound great.”

“The fucked-up hillbilly bastard sure knows how to write a goddamn song. Can’t take that away from him,” Smith said, smiling again. “It’s going to be the best thing we’ve ever done.”

The session went as smoothly as anyone could have hoped for, and Henry left the studio on a serious high. He wanted to get laid, but the thought of calling Richard to see if he wanted company left him restless. As soon as the idea of going to a bar occurred to him, he knew it was exactly what he was looking for. He rarely went out to bars alone, and rarely with the express purpose of finding sex. That night, he felt like a different person.

Henry’s usual haunt, the Westside Clubhouse, was a relatively laid-back place. Guys went there for the same reason they went to any other gay bar, but mainly because it was a place they could relax and be themselves. The drinks were generous, the bartenders were cute but not intimidating, and they all knew Henry. But that wasn’t the kind of place he was in the mood for. Instead, he went to the Hammer and Nail, which he’d heard about but hadn’t yet ventured into.

He stood in line outside the club while the bouncers checked everyone out at the door. While he waited, a couple of guys got turned away for not being fit enough, young enough, handsome enough, or for not fitting who-knew-what other criteria. Henry had been confident when he first queued up, but by the time he got to the front of the line, he was nervous. The tall, blond, muscular bouncer eyed him up and down and motioned him inside without a word, smacking him on the ass as he walked past. The whole process was fairly disgusting, and while Henry was opposed to the attitude in theory, he couldn’t deny that it felt good to know he passed muster.

Inside, the bar was dark and loud. At least half the guys were shirtless, and all of them were beautiful. He bought a gin and tonic and walked through the throngs of sweaty men. He’d need at least two more drinks before he’d be able to get on the dance floor, so he didn’t wander too far from the bar.

“Henry?”

Henry turned around to see a sound technician at one of the studios where he regularly worked. “Hey, man,” he said, searching frantically for the man’s name.

“Pete.”

“Pete, right, of course. I’m sorry. From Blue Door Studios, right?”

Pete nodded. “I didn’t know you were…” He motioned vaguely around the room.

“Yeah, well,” Henry said, smiling lamely and shrugging. “I don’t usually come here, though. It’s not exactly my scene, but I was in some kind of mood tonight. I had a good day.”

“Why? What happened?”

“Laid down some tracks with the Vulgar Details,” Henry said, striving for casual, as if it was the kind of thing that happened every day. “Great stuff.”

“Oh, cool. Was Terry Blackwood there? He’s so sexy.”

“Nope. No Blackwood, and no Dell, of course. He’s the reason I got hired.”

“Right, the drug thing,” Pete said. “Too bad you didn’t get to meet Blackwood though. I bet he’d think you’re cute.”

Henry rolled his eyes. “I have met him. He treated me like the hired help, which I was. And I think those rumors are all bullshit anyway. Just because he partied with Lou Reed or got a blow job from some drag queen—supposedly—doesn’t mean he’s into guys. I think he wants people to think he’s interesting, like Bowie, instead of a second-rate Mick Jagger.”

“Meow!”

Henry gave him a sheepish grin. “I was unaware I had any opinion of him whatsoever until just that moment.”

“Well anyway, a boy can dream.”

Purchase

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Meet the Author

Keelan Ellis is an author of romance and detective fiction, who is always seeking to expand her literary horizons. She is a lover of music and food, and has an intense love/hate relationship with politics. Her stories reflect her passions.

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Tour Schedule

8/14    Drops of Ink 

8/14    Hoards Jumble

8/14    Happily Ever Chapter

8/15    Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

8/15    Stories That Make You Smile

8/16    A Book Lover’s Dream Book Blog 

8/16    Erotica For All

8/17    Love Bytes Reviews

8/17    MM Good Book Reviews 

8/18    Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews

8/18    Bayou Book Junkie

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